The Breakfast Table

Slick Hustlers and Yahoo Spectacles

Dear Mim:

No, I don’t think I’m being too hard on Miramax and their behavior regarding Dogma. I can appreciate that Miramax bosses Bob and Harvey Weinstein made a pragmatic move to ensure the film was seen, Disney wasn’t embarrassed, and the Catholic League could go away feeling that it had achieved something. I know the Weinstein boys probably brokered the best possible compromise, and that it’s a classic Sun Su tactic to allow the enemy to withdraw without loss of face, but, for me, it’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell” solution. On prior restraint, I fear I’m a bloody-minded absolutist. Prior restraint is a secular sin, so no more compromise; rip away the Wizard of Oz curtains on all these pressure groups. While I have no information on Bill Donohue and his cohorts, all too often what’s revealed is an unappetizing confederacy of rabid bigots and slick hustlers with mailing lists who know funds can be extracted from the demented to attack everything from Tom Sawyer to Teletubbies.

On the death penalty, I am also an absolutist. If a nation cannot aspire to a higher moral standard than its killers, it can only be labeled as barbaric. An eye for an eye is the cry of the savage, and neither revenge nor the extermination of the socially unmanageable can ever be a civilized objective. I’m not sure capital punishment is against any Church doctrine, however. I believe that St. Augustine OK’d it in the fifth century at about the same time as he invented the concept of a “just war.” That it is practiced so gleefully in this country and is the parrot shriek of the macho political opportunist sickens me, and yet moral reasoning seems to have no effect. Standing outside San Quentin with a candle also appears wholly ineffective. My feeling is that maybe executions should be televised in prime time, and let everyone see what’s being done in their name. If we are so horrified by the cruel and unusual that we demand repeal of all death-penalty statutes, then hope is possible. If the process of slaughter becomes a savage yahoo spectacle, then we are indeed barbaric. I recall in England, when I was growing up, it took the proved hanging of the wrong man on two separate occasions, plus the execution of an attractive young woman after a tabloid-sensational, lovers-quarrel murder trial finally to turn public opinion.

We seem to have come a long way from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 24 hours.

Much love,